From Your DNA, Your Say

Current ethical issues in genomics

Richard gave a workshop on "Current ethical issues in genomics" to doctoral students at the Sanger Institute

Project: Your DNA, Your SayType: TeachingContributor: Richard MilneKeyword: Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (WTSI)

Current ethical issues in genomics

19th June 2019

4-Year PhD Programme Orview from Sanger’s website

Students apply to the programme rather than to specific Faculty members, and spend the first eight months of the programme undertaking three rotation projects in different research groups. This ensures exposure to different disciplines in genomics, and allows the students to gain a better overall picture of the scientific nature of the Institute and the different technologies that are available. In particular, all students are required to carry out at least one informatics rotation and one experimental laboratory rotation. This helps students to develop wide ranging skills both at the bench and in data analysis. Students are required to write a short report or prepare a poster, and make a presentation to the group, at the end of each project. Selection of the final PhD project laboratory is by mutual consent between the student and supervisor and takes place during the third rotation period.

Monitoring of each student’s progress is achieved through the submission of a project report or the preparation of a poster for each rotation, their first year report, their third year thesis plan and by thesis committee meetings which take place every 6 months.

During their PhD, students are expected to attend training courses in transferable and general research skills, participate in the students’ journal club, present their work regularly and attend seminars.

Students offered one of our 4-year PhD programme funded studentships will obtain full financial support, including University tuition fees, regardless of nationality. There will be 12 funded studentships available across all our research areas. Since Sanger Institute studentships are extremely competitive, we also encourage you to seek your own funding. Any students with their own funding should still apply to the 4-year PhD Programme in the usual way.

Training opportunities

Students on our 4-year PhD Programme are expected to attend training courses in transferable and general research skills such as:

Health and safety training

Graduate lecture series (approx 30 lectures by Sanger Faculty members)

Basic Unix

Python programming

Bioinformatics courses and workshops

Next generation sequencing


Research integrity, reproducible research and ethics workshops

Presentation skills

Scientific writing skills

Communication and public engagement workshop

A wide range of courses are also run on site for which students are eligible. As members of the University of Cambridge, students have access to lecture courses run by University departments, courses run by the Graduate School of Life Sciences and to University facilities such as the library and the careers service. There is also an excellent library on site at the Institute.

There is a fortnightly journal club which all students, except those in their final year, are expected to attend, and students are expected to participate in the programme of journal clubs and research talks within their own research division.

There is a very active academic seminar programme on site. Also students have the opportunity to meet and have informal discussions over lunch with speakers in our Distinguished Lecture Series. In addition, relevant seminar programmes within the University are widely advertised, and students are encouraged to attend.

All students have the opportunity to present their work regularly to their group. Approximately half way through their research, students have to present their work at a PhD Student Presentations Day. In the final year, once students have submitted their thesis, they are required to present their work at a Sanger Institute seminar. In addition, students are encouraged to present their work at both national and international scientific meetings, and we provide up to £1000 per year to enable them to attend such meetings.

Students at the Institute are encouraged to organise their own events such as the EBI-Sanger Cambridge PhD Symposium (eSCAMPS). This meeting brings together students from the whole Cambridge area and gives them the opportunity to present their work to their peers and listen to a number of world renowned keynote speakers. Organising such a meeting (liaising with speakers, seeking sponsorship, managing logistical arrangements etc) allows the students involved to develop their networking, communication and management skills.

Related Link:


Milne R (2019) Ethics and Genomics. Current ethical issues in genomics (Workshop).  4-Year PhD Programme, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute & University of Cambridge, 19th June.